Food for 500
By Senior Airman David Dobrydney, 313th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published April 08, 2011
WESTERN EUROPE -- Hundreds of Airmen have arrived here to support Operation Odyssey Dawn, and they are all hungry.
The dining facility has progressed from serving 450 meals a day to 1,600 since the start of the operation, which is a no-fly zone set up to protect the civilian population of Libya.
To support this increase, a team of nine Airmen deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
Staff Sgt. Patricia Harvey, NCO in charge of the flight kitchen, said when the team arrived, they found the meals being served out of the base club, as the main dining facility is under renovation.
"We had to inventory what we needed and move things around," said Sergeant Harvey.
Many of the Airmen forming the 313th AEW are on flight crews. To date, the Spangdahlem Airmen have distributed more than 350 flight meals.
"It's easy and accessible," said Senior Airman Kaythi Saw, flight kitchen assistant. "Instead of messing up their sleep schedules, they can just call (an order) in and pick it up."
Packing the meals requires attention to detail, not just to ensure the meals are complete, but also to get past customs. Because of stateside restrictions on foreign produce, the flight kitchen must avoid putting fruit and vegetables in the meals, which are subject to inspection.
"If meals are on a flight headed to the U.S., they need to be stamped 'USDA approved,'" said Sergeant Harvey.
Meanwhile, other Airmen have been working as servers, cashiers and in quality assurance confirming that health and agricultural standards are adhered to. They work closely with the local nationals who had been working the dining facility before the arrival of the Odyssey Dawn Airmen.
"Like any team, we have to get to know each other," said Sergeant Harvey. "We have a language barrier, but we work with the shift supervisors and we overcome it."
Cooperation goes beyond getting past the difference in language, said Airman Saw.
"We're not here to take over," she said. "We compromise and try to make it better."